Schwerner's genius here is in interpolating the voice of the "scholar-translator" of these texts, a move which allows the poem both its extraordinarily broad range of voice and its labyrinthine depth of meaning. And gloriously so. Using plus signs to indicate what's missing, and including his own speculative words in brackets, the scholar-translator develops delightfully uncertain yet musical lines: O Pinitou Pinitou Pinitou in dry cricket sperm [break unhappy] my mouth is full of blood Beautiful Strange? The whole of Tablet X, for example, surrounds the scholar-translator's bracketed inclusion of Wallace Stevens' famous phrase "the the" with a field of plus signs and ellipses amply illustrating his admission "I have been responsible for occasional jocose invention rather than strict archaeological findings" VIII. But ultimately, the scholar-translator's enthrallment with his primary text, as when he notes "a singular confusion of pronouns here.

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These small-press editions have long been unavailable. The built-in foils to authenticity are various. Yet glimpses are all readers are given, as other impediments to "truth" are encountered. The edges do not meet in three places. And, because he was a pastor and a "divine," Henrik L. The greater the number of sub-versions of the "original," the reader realizes, the greater the subversion of the very idea of originality. The trouble with XXVII is that while the electron microscope testifies to the structural origin of its nine "dilapidated" clay cylinder-seals, "it does not absolutely guarantee the congruence of the materials.

How magnificent. Portions of the text he finds simply "interesting," "curious," or "odd. About the diagrammatic Design Tablet he notes, "[M]y long experience warrants that concentrated meditation in it bears metaphysical rewards of a high order," and in XXVII he reminisces, "I will never forget the vibrations, the shimmerings, that overmastered me when, my arms outstretched, I first experienced the pressure of one of these Seals on the palm of my left hand.

I now regret my earlier flippancy—an attitude characteristic of beginnings, a manifestation of the resistance man often senses when he faces the probability of a terrific demand upon his life energy Some days I do not doubt that the ambiguity is inherent in the language of The Tablets themselves; at other times I worry myself sick over the possibility that I am the variable giving rise to ambiguities On occasion it almost seems to me as if I am inventing this sequence, and such a fantasy sucks me into an abyss of almost irretrievable depression, from which only forced and unpleasurable exercises in linguistic analysis rescue me VIII.

The origin of this fictive Sumero-Akkadian civilization is not merely effaced to readers but was obscure even to those who lived in it. The hieroglyph for "god" may be translated "pig," and while the capitalization is certain, the number regarding "One" or "Ones" is not. The term pintrpnit is conjectured to be a transliteration of an archaic form of "alleluiah" or "selah," implying worship, but II introduces the word knom for "the spirit which denies," and it is never clear exactly who—if anyone—created this universe.

The divide between subject matter and procedure, though, is precisely what is unsettled by The Tablets, which agitates any facile distinctions among fact, artifact, and artifice. Here the genre of the archaeological is undone by the sense that whatever could be findable will not be findable—the meaning of the digs progressively wafting into common air—not without appearance of the epic, the psychodramatic, the irredeemable word-pain.

The self-undoing genre crowded with doing. Unlike its Modernist precursors, however, The Tablets does not conform, as critic Brian McHale has explained, to the Freudian archaeological trope that the deeper one excavates, the closer one gets to the truth. The Tablets revels in the postmodern manufacture of a world that, because of its proximity to historically credible civilizations, appears to be real yet cannot be verified as such, thus enunciating the difficulty, if not impossibility, of objective historiography.

Schwerner has a precise, animated voice, and hearing him read is a pleasure, if not an exercise in eloquence. But what strikes one as odd is that despite oracular passages in the work, its erratic typography would seem to render it the least sort of poetry capable of vocalization.

The entirety of track 7 runs: Tablet X consists of 23 lines, all in a combination of "untranslatable," "missing," or "confusing. Quite apart from distorting the work itself, vocal performance further problematizes the polyvalent, palimpsestic notion of "the work itself," though it does frustrate easy listening.

What are served especially well by oral presentation are the highly lyrical passages bursting sporadically from The Tablets. His urge to sing is more formidable, however, when brought to bear on The Tablets, amid whose complex rigors one does not necessarily expect—but is grateful to find—such consummate, consuming music as this: From nothing from nothing find me my name, say in some clear way if the end is sadness, how the days of fishing are numbered, say whether my name begins in rage or music rooting about for its pleasure o draw me from my Alabaster Self While we have you Confronting the many challenges of COVID—from the medical to the economic, the social to the political—demands all the moral and deliberative clarity we can muster.

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These small-press editions have long been unavailable. The built-in foils to authenticity are various. Yet glimpses are all readers are given, as other impediments to "truth" are encountered. The edges do not meet in three places. And, because he was a pastor and a "divine," Henrik L. The greater the number of sub-versions of the "original," the reader realizes, the greater the subversion of the very idea of originality.


The Tablets by Armand Schwerner, produced by the Living Theater

The two books at hand are his summation. Schwerner's mischievous, fabular epic The Tablets, assembled here in full for the first time, is ostensibly a scholarly translation of twenty-seven clay tablets from the ancient Near East. In fact, it is a postmodern meditation on language, translation, the limits of knowledge and origins of consciousness, and the pathos of intellectual life. Indebted to Olson's ""Song of Ullikummi"" a poem derived from the Hittite version of a Hurrian myth , Schwerner's fragmented, often humorous reconstruction of an ancient ""original"" is no more real than the Borgesian land of Uqbar--or the Captain's Log on Star Trek. In some instances the muddle of past, present and future achieves an inspired lunacy. Accepting the authority of physical experience but tempering that authority with book learning and flights of fancy, Schwerner's Shorter Poems make a worthy companion to The Tablets.


Armand Schwerner, The Tablets, Part I

Tweet Armand Schwerner was a poet who scripted works of grand proportions. The piece for which he is best known, and that subsequently defined a new genre of poetry, is humbly entitled, The Tablets. The epic is a reconstruction of ancient Sumero-Akkadian inscriptions, complete with lacunae and untranslatable words. In a broader sense, Schwerner made a translation of his own metier, uncovering the poetic potential of an anthropologist's study of ancient languages and traditions. In this case, one that was over 4, years old. Rather than the pretext of subtleties often represented in the art form, he focused on the made thing — the poem became the artifact, the object. He spent 25 years transcribing the work, ultimately concluding with his death, an effort that has been likened to Ezra Pound's Cantos.

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